Remembering Akhtar-Ul-Imaan ( 1915-1996 )

In an Interview Akhtar Ul Imaan once said :

“ My ancestors were Surajvanshi Rajputs from Raokhedi . It was sometime aroung 1857 that our ancestor Ram singh embraced islam . “

Akhtar Ul Imaan did not bring his poetry to films and never his scripts and stories to his poetry. For him poetry remained an Art while story and dialogue writing for films a profession. He wrote scripts/ Dialogues for films like DO BADAN, MERA SAAYA , DAAG ( 1973 ), PHOOL AUR PATHAR ( 1966 ) , WAQT ( 1965 ) DHARMPUTRA ( 1961 ) . GUMRAAH ( 1963 ), ROTI ( 1974 ), PATHER KE SANAM ( 1967 ) and many more movies that proved quite successful at the box office.

He never ever wrote a song for films . When his friend Giri Lal jain ( Editor Times of India ) requested him to write a song for his daughter’s wedding , Akhtar Ul Iman politely refused .

He would always say ;

“ Poetry comes from somewhere deep within . You cannot write for an externally created situation . That is not poetry . It is heartless as it does not move through your heart. ”

He was well educated ( Post Graduate ) and had a profound knowledge of world literature . His life took many turns . As a child , He lived in an orphanage as well but never abandoned his education .

Akhtar Ul imaan started his film Career from Shalimar studio Pune ( owned by W Z Ahmed ) as story writer on a monthly salary of Rs150/= in early 1947. And in june 1947 , the studio was closed due to partition riots and he had to move to Bombay. Krishen Chander , Ramanand Sagar and Bharat Vyas also moved to Bombay after June 1947.He took up a residence at Turner Road .

During this period , Poet Meera ji was roaming in Bombay like a heartbroken fellow. Meeraji shared a room with Madhusudan ( a friend of Akhtar Ul Iman ) who lived at kalaghoda, later Meeraji moved to live with Mohan Sehgal and finally shifted to stable at Byculla. He was a total broke and ill. It was Akhtar Ul Iman who stepped in and brought him to his home and engaged him by starting a Monthly Magazine “Khayaal “.Meeraji died in 1949. Some work here and there , Akhtar Ul Iman finally moved to story Department of Filmistan while simultaneously writing scripts for Kamal Amrohi , M sadiq , S M Yusuf and kabir Ahmed. He wrote Nastik and Anarkali but no credit was given to him. In 1958 ( And remained there till 1975 ), he Joined story Department of B R Films on a monthly salary of rupees twelve hundred . It was only after the release of films like Kanoon , Mughal e Azam ( He was a co writer ) and Waqt that his luck took a swift and favourable turn.Offers for writing Dialogue and scripts poured in and he started charging good amount for his services .By now he was a father of three daughters Shehla, Asma and Rakshanda and a son Ramish whom he fondly named GUDDU.. He ensured their good shooling and as father , got deeply attached to them and their welfare.

The poet suffered major financial crisis after he ventured into film making. In 1979, With Jemal singh as partner, Akhtar ul Imaan produced a movie” lahu Pukarega” . He wrote the script and also directed it.From the editing room , the negatives were whisked away by Jemal singh who releaased the film on his own . But then radical changes were already sweeping Indian Film Industry Post 1970. New faces , New film makers ,Newer concepts and New challenges had arrived . New equations were visible in the Film world . Film making passed on to people who just wanted to make quick buck . He spurned many offers to write Masala scripts that lacked social purpose . After his break up with B R Chopra , He did not go well with Yash Chopra also . From 1975 to 1988, he had only five assignemnts in 13 years ( including his own film Lahu Pukarega ) .He had almost no work in films .This was followed by his by pass surgery in 1986. It was his son in law and actor Amjad Khan who came to his rescue. He did all arrangements and booked tickets of Mrs Sultana ( His wife ) Dr Ashok Hitolkar ( His family Physician ) and Akhtar ul Imaan for USA apart from paying advance amount to ST Luke’s Hospital Texas . He stayed there for about a month and returned to India with pending bills to the extent of 26000 US Dollors. To his son in law , he told that all bills had been settled . Again some close friends raised a substantial amount from BCCI, Hamdard Foundation and othe Charitable institutions of Mumbai.

Amjad Khan’s death in 1992 came as a great shock to the poet.

Dr Ashok operated him again for a painful Fistula whereafter he got his Kidney problems that needed regular Dialysis .He also sold his spacious Bandra flat for 30 lakhs and shifted to a two room small flat on ground floor of Ravi Darshan ( A 3) . Shamas ur Rehman Farooqi’s intervention and Ashok vajpayee’s help bought a monthly stipend of Rs5000 for two years to him. The expenditure on Dialysis alone was Rs6000 per month. His wife stood like a rock to support him . He was on regular dialysis since 1994 and breathed his last on 9th March 1996.

Dr.Ashok Hitolkar ( From Nanavati Hospital ) was at his bed side at that last moment.


I need to say something about his poetry as well…Though he carries his own style , language and content , his work also bears influence of two well known urdu poets namley Noom Meem Rashid and Meeraji .

An integral part of Akhtar Ul Imaan‘s poetry is its intensity , Suggestiveness,metaphors, symbols imagery  and philosophical style . His thought is emancipated .It is free from religion , History and political commitments . I quote …

 “Loghaat alfaaz ka ek deir hai lafzon pe mat jaana

Naya aahang hota hai Morattab Lafz o maani ka

Meray haq mein abhi kuchh faisalaa sadir na farmaana

Me jis din aaoonga taaza Loghaat hamraah laaoonga”

 (The dictionary is nothing but a pile of words

Be careful and discreet as a fresh plan is in the offing

To describe everything afresh  .

Pray, Don’t pass any judgement at this moment,

The day I come my lord,

I shall bring along with me the new Glossary )

After reading his poems , I found that the poet in him is ever in search of a New Mode of expression.There is a tone of genuine anguish and sorrow in his poetry . A sorrow that is funadamentally linked to internal demands of every Human being set against innumerable external influences arising out of existence .It appears that he himself has been a student all along his creative endeavours indulging in self analysis and self Criticism with extraordinary aloofness . For this I suggest every reader to read his poem “Ek Ladka “ . “Ek Ladaka ‘ is a poem about all of us .The structure of the poem is sarcastic and spectacular. A boy within him keeps trailing the poet . This boy peeps into the contradictions of his tall thinking and small actions . The reader feels a sense of loss and passing time in this poem. I add some lines from this great poem …

“Anaasir Muntashir ho jaane Nabzein Doob Jaane tak

Navaa e subh ho ya Naala e shab kuchh bhi Gaana hai

Zafar mandon ke aage rizk ki tahsil ki Khaatir

Kabhi apna hi Nagma Unn Ka keh Kar Muskaraana hai

Sahar Ki aarzo Mein Shab Ka Daaman Thhaamta huun Jab

Yeh ladkaa Poochhta hai Akhtar Ul Imaan tum hi Ho “

“ Me uss ladke se kehtaa huun voh sholaa mar chukaa Jis ne

Kabhi chaaha thhaa ek Khashak e Aalam Phoonk Daalegaa

Yeh ladkaa muskarata hai Yeh Ahistaa se kehtaa hai

Yeh Kizb o Iftira hai Jhoot hai Dekho me Zinda huun “

“Khudaa e Izz o Jal Ki nematon ka Mota’rif huun mein

Ussi ne yaava goyon ko mera Khazin Banaaya hai

Magar Jab Jab kissi ke saamne Daaman pasaara hai

Yeh ladkaa Poochhta hai Akhtar Ul Imaan tum hi Ho “

Akhtar Ul Imaan has published seven collections:

Tareek Sayyara (1943)

Gardyab (1946)

Aabjoo (1959)

Yaden ( The book won him a Sahitya Academy Award in 1962 )

Bint-e-Lamhaat (1969)

Naya Ahang (1977)

Sar-o-Samaan (1983)

In an interview to Ghulam Rizvi “Gardish “ , he once said :

“The concept of time in my poetry is so felt as if it is a part of my “Being”and goes hand in gloves with me in my creations. This concept is neither of MAAYA nor of MORTALITY . It is such a living and ever pervading being which is infinite.Had it not been time, it would have been something greater than God because due to its presence even the form and concept of God ever goes on changing. Our entire poetic process bears the stamp of the same stereotyped language whereas everything has gone through a sea change. Ironically , whatsoever is left out is nothing but slogan mongering of the lover and the beloved. I have tried to save myself from this heresy and kept the diction as anti romantic , rough and rugged”

In July 2015, We were inside a Theatre in UBUD ( Bali ) Indonesia , watching a Balinese Ramayana show.. Far away from India . Far away from Friends and well wishers . Far away from familiar faces , language and environment . The Theatre was packed with Tourists from Europe , Japan and Australia . And then some one cried :

“ Hey Namaskaar Mahraa “ .

A strange feeling visited me . To describe it , I can only add Akhtar Ul Imaan’s poem Ittefaq …

( Ittefaq )

Dayaar-e-Gair main koyee jahaan na apana ho

shadeed karb ki gharriyan guzar chukane par

kuchh ittefaq ho aisa ki ek sham kahin

kissi ek aissi jagah se ho yun hi mera guzar

Jahaan Hujum e Gurezaan mein Tum Nazar aao

Aur Eik Eik Ko Hairat Se Dekhtaa Reh Jaaye

( Akhtar Ul imaan )

My English rendering would be as under…

In a foreign land ,

Where none is your own

After spending some intensely anguished moments ,

And by Sheer coincidence ,

one evening it so happens ,

While Walking casually through a place ,

Where , among the passing crowds ,

I happen to see you ,

And then In Total Astonishment ,

Each of us keeps looking at the other …”

Akhtar Ul Imaan has the capacity to bring his reader to a spot that is in between a Dream and the reality .His Nazms project a deep and profound humanism. I add a sample Nazm “Tabdeeli “( Change ).

(Tabdeeli )

Iss Bhare Shahar mein Koyee Aissa Nahin

Jo Mujhe Raah Chaltay Ko Pehchaan Le

Aur Awaaz Dhe “O Bey! O Sar Phiray!”

Donon Ek Doosray se Lipat kar Vaheen

Gird o Pesh aur Maahaul Ko Bhool Kar

Gaaliyan Dhein Hansein Haathha Paayi Karein

Paas Ke Peid ki Chhaanv Mein Baith Kar

Ghanton Eik Doosaray ki sunein Aur kahein

Aur Iss Nek Roohon Ke Bazaar mein

Meri Yeh Qeemati Be Baha Zindagi

Eik Din Ke liye Apnaa Rukh mod le

(Akhtar ul imaan )

My Simple English rendering of this poem would be as under …

 ( Change )

“On the Pathways of this teeming city ,

There is none to Recognise a traveller like me .,

And then cry “ So Here you are ! My Reckless Friend !”

And then there itself ,

We embrace each other ,

Forgetting who is around or in our surroundings ,

Start abusing each other ,

Engage in a brawl and smile together .

Sitting under the shade of the near by tree,

Keep listening and speaking to each other

for hours and hours .

And then in this marketplace of virtuous lives ,

This precious and priceless life of mine ,

May take a new turn and change direction ,

Just for a day only.”

I end this post with his Poem Jummud (Stagnation )

Tum se berangi-e-hasti kaa gilaa karanaa thhaa

Dil pe Anbaar hai Khuun-gashtaa tamannaaon kaa

Aaj Toote huve taaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Eik melaa hai pareshaan si ummeedon kaa

Chand Paz-murdaa bahaaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Paanv thhak thhak ke rah jaate hain maayusi mein

Pur-mahan Raah-guzaaron kaa Khayaal aayaa hai

Saaqi-o-baadaa nahin jaam-o-lab-e-juu bhi nahin

Tum se kahanaa thhaa ki ab aankh mein aansu bhi nahin

Rest in Peace Akhtar Ul Imaan ..

Autar Mota is a Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.